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Capstone Projects: Sponsor an ISD Student

The graduate-level capstone project course is required for every ISD Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) student. It is a culminating course that provides ISD students with an opportunity to gain real-world experience on a project provided by companies and entrepreneurs. Companies benefit from having graduate students contribute new ideas and knowledge to high priority engineering and technical issues. A successful project ensures that both students and companies achieve their goals.

Students are identified for projects based on their background, interest, and strengths. University of Michigan engineering faculty are selected to advise students because of their technical expertise and ability to guide the students throughout the applied project. Monthly reports are evaluated by the faculty and gradually and systematically compiled by the student into a final report. The proposal and the final report are evaluated by the faculty advisor in consultation with the sponsor and follow non-disclosure agreements. The final report is due in the last month of the semester. A sample final report is available here.

The capstone project course must occur within the time frame of the university's academic calendar. Projects can be conducted year-round in fall, winter, and spring/summer terms. An ideal time for students to complete a three-credit capstone course is from May to August. An extended capstone project, also called a practicum, may be six to nine credit hours. The scope and duration of the project depends on the company's expectations for deliverables and on the University of Michigan policies for the student's degree. A project course can range from a 14-week term (i.e. three credit hour course) to six months or more (i.e. up to nine credit hours).

Projects can be completed by an individual or a team of students.



Next Steps

  1. Companies submit their project ideas via the capstone project course application form to the ISD office at Companies provide a clear definition of the issue, its context, and expected outcomes.
  2. The ISD office reviews the project idea with its project advisor team. When the project is determined to meet university requirements, the appropriate students receive information about the project.
  3. The company sponsor is invited to meet with these students to talk about the project.
  4. Interested students provide resumes to company sponsor. Team formation begins. Student(s) and project sponsor agree upon logistical issues, such as opportunity to work at the company.
  5. Student(s) submit project proposal to the ISD office for approval prior to registering for the class. The approved proposal is shared with the company sponsor.
  6. Upon successful completion of the final report, the faculty advisor will assign the final grade. The final report is provided to the company sponsor. Students are encouraged to formally present their findings to the project sponsors.
To allow sufficient time for team formation and project approvals, companies should submit their forms at least four weeks prior to the following project approval deadlines:

  • Fall: July 1
  • Winter: October 1
  • Spring/Summer: March 1

Capstone/Practicum Details

How It Works

  • Projects generally range from three to nine months
  • Students complete projects towards the end of their degree programs, usually in the summer
  • Students receive three credits for capstone projects
  • Students in Systems Engineering + Design complete a longer, more in-depth practicum for six to nine credits
  • Internship is expected to be paid, but can be unpaid in exceptional cases
  • Requires monthly interaction between the faculty advisor and the student with participation by the company host as possible
  • Companies may propose projects, if such a need exists; otherwise ISD students will create project ideas
  • One proposal and monthly report submissions are required over the duration of each project; reports are evaluated by faculty
  • Students prepare final reports which are reviewed by faculty and company hosts
  • All projects follow non-disclosure agreements

Examples of Projects/Topic Areas

  • Product Design
    • Uncover the financial implications of a design in the technical specifications of a product
    • Integrate human factors in the design of an electric motorcycle
  • Smart Structures
    • Reduce airframe generated noise in jets
    • Reduce cruise drag to reduce fuel consumption on take-off and landings
    • Next generation of highly-sensitive diagnosis and structural health monitoring techniques
  • Sustainability
    • Life cycle product design optimization
  • Health Systems
    • ICU Hospital bed of the future

Benefits to Company Hosts

  • Achieve cost avoidance/savings
  • Gain access and exposure to expert faculty from U-M
  • Evaluate talent and possible future hires
  • Make progress towards organizational goals, continuous improvements, and critical innovations


  • Company Host
    • Hire student as a temporary, full-time employee for the duration of the practicum
    • Supply housing if student does not currently live within driving distance
    • Pay student wage or stipend
    • Review student progress and assist with a monthly report to the faculty advisor
    • Safety, training, intellectual property rights, nondisclosure agreements and other employee agreements will be in effect
  • Student
    • Identify practicum sites based on the practicum topic, area of specialization, previous experience, career interests, and career goals.
    • Reach out to hosts and share resume, apply for internships, etc.
    • Contact the company host and identify the faculty advisor
    • Submit project proposal to advisor, program director, and to company host
    • Obtain visa or international paperwork, as needed
    • Register for project course
    • Fulfill all course requirements